Brazil: Useful Information
The world's largest country in the tropics
- Most major international cards are accepted. Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.
- Travellers cheques are exchangeable at hotels, banks and tourist agencies. Tourists cannot exchange US travellers cheques for US banknotes but they may, however, benefit from a 15 per cent discount when paying hotel or restaurant bills in foreign currency or travellers cheques. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take travellers cheques in US Dollars.
- There is no expected tipping on top of the 10% service charge on restaurant and hotel bills. Taxi drivers usually do not get tipped. Bellboys get tipped R$1 (U.S.$0.50) per bag.
- Currency restrictions The import and export of local currency is unlimited although it may be subject to prior approval by Brazil Central Bank. The import of foreign currency is unlimited, provided amounts over US$1000 are declared on arrival; the export of foreign currency is limited to US$4000 per person (amounts in excess of this need special approval from the Brazilian Central Bank).
- In informal situations, it is common to kiss women on both cheeks when meeting and taking one's leave. Handshaking is customary between men, and normal European courtesies are observed. Frequent offers of coffee and tea are customary. Flowers are acceptable as a gift on arrival or following a visit for a meal. A souvenir from the visitor's home country will be well-received as a gift of appreciation. Casual wear is normal, particularly during hot weather. For more formal occasions the mode of dress will be indicated on invitations. The Catholic Church is highly respected in the community, something which should be kept in mind by the visitor.
- In the winter (March to September), there are three time zones. In the summer, there are four time zones. The coast including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Salvador and inland up to Brasilia is 2 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST). Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, and the Amazon are one hour ahead of EST. The state of Acre and the western part of the Amazon follow EST time. The fourth time zone is a resultant from elected officials who refuse to follow daylight savings time; the cities included in this vary according to who is elected.
- Food from street and beach vendors has a bad hygienic reputation in Brazil. The later in the day, the worse it gets. Bottled and canned drinks are safe, although some people will insist on using a straw to avoid contact with the exterior of the container.
- Tap water varies from place to place, (from contaminated, saline or soaked with chlorine to plain drinkable) and Brazilians themselves usually prefer to have it filtered.
- Public hospitals tend to be crowded and not too good. Most cities of at least 60,000 inhabitants have good private healthcare.
- Internet cafes (Lan houses) are increasingly common, and even small towns often have at least one spot with more or less decent connections. An increasing number of hotels, airports and shopping malls also offer hotspots for wireless internet access with your laptop computer.
- Brazil is one of a few countries that uses both 120 and 240 volts for everyday appliances. Expect the voltage to change back and forth as you travel from one place to the next -- even within the same Brazilian state, sometimes even within the same building. There is no physical difference in the electric outlets (power mains) for the two voltages.
- The emergency number is 190, but you must speak Portuguese.
- Most restaurants will add a 10% service charge on the bill, and this is all the tip a Brazilian will ever pay. It is also what most waiters survive on, however it is not mandatory and you may ignore it. In some tourist areas you might be tried for extra tip. Just remember that you will look like a complete sucker if you exaggerate.